THE ELECTIONS ARE OVER. The count was held last Friday and Saturday, and by Sunday the position was fairly clear. There are 166 seats in Dáil Éireann. All have now been filled.
A party or parties wishing to form a Government should in theory have 84 members but 83 would be plenty if someone from the new Opposition accepted the office of Ceann Comhairle (Speaker) who presides over Dáil debates.
THE RESULTS are:
Fianna Fáil (FF) 78 Fine Gael (FG) 51 Labour (Lab) 20 Green Party (GP) 6 Independents (Ind) 5 Sinn Féin (SF) 4 Progressive Democrats(PD) 2
The state of the parties before the election was:
FF 81 FG 31 Lab 21 GP 6 Ind 13 SF 5 PD 8 Socialist Party (SP) 1
Fianna Fáil had lost 3 seats, Fine Gael gained 20, Labour lost 1, Green Party no change, Sinn Féin lost 1, PDs lost 6, SP lost its only member.
Notable losers were Tanaiste Michael McDowell, leader of the PDs who retired from politics on the spot, and the Socialist Party's Joe Higgins, anti-war champion, defender of the poor and the Dáil's most colourful and eloquent orator.
NO GOVERNMENT HAS FORMED AS YET. Early predictions were that Fianna Fáil would form the new Government either with the help of the PDs and five Independents OR with PDs, the Greens and some Independents OR with Labour,including possibly others. That was the order of preference indicated by the Taoiseach BARTHOLOMEW AHERN in an interview on Sunday on Sky TV.
ENDA KENNY of FINE GAEL stubbornly refused to concede defeat. Kenny's stubbornness has meant that all parties and none (with the possible exception of Sinn Féin) are at present in discussions about who will be the next Taoiseach. Bargains can be made, promises elicited, shopping lists presented. Both FF and FG have, publicly at least, ruled out doing business with Sinn Féin.
THE ELECTIONS WERE SCARCELY FINISHED and winners and losers had scarcely dusted themselves down when a Tribunal of Inquiry, postponed because of the elections, re-opened on Monday 28 May and new difficulties for Taoiseach Bartholomew began to emerge. The Tribunal, in its opening statement, pointed out that it had found discrepancies between Bartholomew's account of moneys lodged to an Allied Irish Banks (AIB) account and the Tribunal's own findings.
BARTHOLOMEW HAD SAID earlier to a Tribunal lawyer in private session that a crucial £30,000 Sterling received in cash from a Mr Wall of Manchester had been lodged by his partner Celia Larkin in the said Bank on 5 December 1994. Bartholomew was then Minister for Finance. However, the only Sterling (British) money lodged on that day in that bank was a mere £1200 sterling (approximately). No sight of £30,000 in sterling. However a large sum, in Irish punts (IR£) which would amount to exactly $45,000 (US) was lodged in the bank on that day. The implication was that Ms Larkin had made a lodgment in dollars. The question was Who might have given her such a sum in dollars. After all, the mentioned £30,000 had come from a Manchester businessman. And Bartholomew said he had never dealt in dollars. A row with the Tribunal itself ensued.
DARKENING CLOUDS THICKENED OVER BARTHOLOMEW at the very time that the king-making deputies were considering their options. This evening, Sinn Féin threw out an invitation to both sides to deal with them as they are open to talks.
THERE SEEMS TO BE only one thing certain now: The shape and content of the next Dáil will be very, very interesting.